Supreme Court conservatives open to Louisiana abortion law


Roberts did not say enough to tip his hand in an hour of spirited arguments at the high court.

Abortion is once again before the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision is expected by late June.

Banning abortion is something pro-life lawmakers in Kentucky are open about.

Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about a law in Louisiana that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges to local hospitals. The federal appeals court in New Orleans, though, upheld the law, setting up the Supreme Court case.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, as she had before, that "among medical procedures, first trimester abortion is among the safest, far safer than childbirth".

"Is it right that there is evidence on the record that Hope clinic" - the Louisiana abortion facility in question - "has served over 3,000 women annually for 23 years, so that's around 70,000 women, and has transferred only four patients ever to a hospital?" asked Justice Elena Kagan.

Justice Samuel Alito said the clinic had once had its license suspended, in 2010.

Perhaps the biggest question is whether the court will overrule a 2016 decision in which it struck down a similar law in Texas.

The court can rule as narrowly or broadly as it chooses, and with a newly rebalanced court that tilts conservative since Donald Trump's pick Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court, it is extremely hard to make predictions even after oral arguments. Even with those two additions to the court, Roberts nearly certainly holds the deciding vote.

There, the court said the law did not pass the undue burden test for abortion seekers.

Her organization is putting pressure on the four senators from swing states who are gearing up for tough re-elections in November and voted to confirm Kavanaugh in 2018 - a confirmation that effectively tipped the court right - Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Joni Ernst of Iowa.

The justices also heard a separate case challenging similar restrictions on federal appeals courts to review the deportation of non-citizens who have committed criminal offences, if their claims they would be tortured if returned to their home countries have been rejected.

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In the Louisiana case, known as June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, it appears Chief Justice John Roberts, and potentially Kavanaugh, will be the deciding vote. Admitting privileges allows a doctor, by virtue of membership, to admit patients to a nearby hospital.

And, they argue, it could eliminate abortion access throughout the state. The Supreme Court in 1992 reaffirmed Roe vs Wade in a ruling that prohibited laws that placed an "undue burden" on a woman's ability to obtain an abortion. Roberts asked Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill.

"The Louisiana law at issue here, Act 620, is identical to the Texas law and was expressly modeled on it", she said.

Mancini said treating abortion differently than other outpatient facility surgeries lowers the bar for women's health.

They said it would leave only one doctor at a single clinic to provide services for almost 10,000 women who seek abortions in the state each year.

"Could an admitting privileges law of this kind ever have a valid objective, in your view?" He asked a question to all three attorneys arguing before the court: if this law is upheld, does each state have to evaluate its benefits?

Rikelman replied: "No, Your Honor".

The court also has agreed to review whether abortion providers have the right to go into court to represent the interests of women seeking abortions.

A state lawyer for Louisiana said the law would help ensure that only competent doctors are performing abortions.

But apart from Alito, the justices did not seem especially interested in resolving the case on the standing issue.

The Trump administration contended that the lower court's ruling would defeat the objective of quick deportation and "impose a severe burden on the immigration system".

"There are good arguments on both sides", he said, adding that some feel abortion is "morally wrong".